Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Bryophyllum pinnatum (Lam.) Oken

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
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Fruit [not vouchered]. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Leaves [not vouchered]. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Habit, leaves and fruit [not vouchered]. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Herbarium specimen. © CSIRO

Oken, L. (1841) Allgemeine Naturgeschichte fur alle Stande 3(3): 1966.

Common name

Air Plant; Mother of Millions


Stems succulent, glabrous, ± glaucous; stems hollow, 50-200 cm tall, rarely branched; producing vegetatively by adventitious shoots from base.


Leaves succulent. Lower and uppermost leaves simple, middle leaves usually pinnately compound with 3-5 leaflets, opposite, blades flat, elliptic, 5-20 x 2-10 cm, margins crenate, sometimes producing plantlets, petioles 2-10 cm long.


Flowers in paniculate cymes 20-80 cm long, each pendent on pedicels 1-2.5 cm long; sepals pale yellow streaked with red, connate, cylindrical, inflated and papery, tube 2.5-4.5 cm long, the lobes +/- 1 cm long; corolla 3-6 cm long, the exserted part maroon, sparsely glandular pubescent.


Follicles 10-14 mm long, acute, enclosed in the persistent papery calyx. Seeds numerous per fruit, obovoid, obtuse at the apex 0.8-1.2 x 0.2-0.35 mm.


Features not available.

Distribution and Ecology

An introduced species originally from Madagascar now naturalised in NEQ and CEQ and as far south as New South Wales. Recorded from CYP. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 780 m. Occurs in Eucalyptus forest, strand forest and Casuarina woodland. More common in dune vegetation.

Natural History & Notes

Plants contain bufadienolide cardiac glycosides that can cause cardiac poisoning, particularly in grazing animals (McKenzie 1986 & 1987).

Cotyledon pinnata Lam., Encyclopedie Methodique, Botanique 2: 141(1783), Type: LIsle de France.
RFK Code
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